Stephen Bové - Art, Technology, Right Action

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Herb Caen's Posthumous Ode to San Francisco















"Herb Caen, Pulitzer-winning lead columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle, was the most beloved and powerful man in San Francisco for almost sixty years.

At his funeral (2/7/97), 2,500 mourners packed Grace Cathedral. The service was carried live on channels 4, 5 and 7, and shown on several giant screens around the city. The eulogies were delivered by Robin Williams, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, and a Mystery Gentleman wearing a pillowcase over his head."

Caen also willed to his beloved city of San Francisco a fireworks display.

It happened above Aquatic Park near Fort Mason a few days after his funeral.

I lived on Russian Hill at the time and was lucky to attended.

There was no fog ;-)

Blow Up Redux

Haunting, recurring memory of a strange movie...

I may have seen it in college, or while living in Manhattan in the late 80s...

There was a cool, arrogant, aloof young photographer strutting about London in mod boots, driving his slant-eyed-pre-Pininnfarina-designed Rolls Royce convertible, talking to people who worked for him through some kind of James-Bondian dispatch radio, doing photo shoots with seductive teenage models in collapsing rolls of purple cellophane, buying rare landscape paintings in off-beat London antique stores, having old airplane propellers delivered to his studio on a whim ("it's art").

In the same memories, the photographer is watching mimes play tennis...they hit a ball over a fence and the photographer runs it down for them, tosses it back...it all has something vaguely to do with a creepy murder...or is it a cheesy metaphor?

What was this mysterious mind collage about? Search engine: "mimes tennis photographer london." Link: homage to Michelangelo Antonioni; film Blow Up; actor David Hemmings. Netflix: rent the movie, watch it twice, stright-up then with the commentry by a stiff film professor...

It's about "style" in a way that must have been revolutionary...the narrative is interesting, but the stylization of settings and "scenes" is either a happy exceptional accident or a brilliant design. Even today, this movie would make a mark. It sits in visual memory alongside the much later Diva & Mona Lisa.

Historical notes:
  • Blow Up was made after the Kennedy assassination by 3 years, the "blow up the photo till you can make out smoking guns in the silver-grain shadows" game had been played out in world-wide mega-media via Zapruder super-8mm.
  • That IS none other than Jimmy Page onstage toward the end of the movie with the Yard Birds including fellow guitarist Jeff Beck, playing a riff that Zep later developed into a hit. Oddly, Beck smashes up a guitar Pete Townsend style -- was this shocking? Did Pete steal the move from the movie or visa versa?
Films with haunting actors and mise en scène, yet unmemorable plot...think of Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth or Dern in Silent Running...there's a power in them -- to lodge a partial story or powerful visuals in memory like a dream fragment...like an experience you actually had but can't remember clearly. Is this an accident, or do these filmmakers intend this effect? A strange kind of genius if the later.


Monday, December 13, 2004

Klaus Kinski in Mill Valley











Re-watched Werner Herzog's documentary about his relationship with actor Klaus Kinski...My Best Friend (Mein Liebster Feind)...sensational study of the creative process...

Searching the internet for stuff on Klaus: found an odd interview/story about him.

He died at his home in Lagunitas in 1991 (just north of where I now live)...2 weeks before his death, he met this reporter/interviewer for lunch in Mill Valley at D'Angelos...they sat together at one of the little marble tables in the front bar window...he loved Jack London...who also happened to live in/around the bay area)...

Don't miss Kinski's flagrant autobiography (current version is the toned down 2nd publishing after the first was pulled due to libel threats)...

"Our first task was finding a table in the near-empty restaurant. Kinski led me from table to table, with Paolo right behind us. No, this table wasn't right because it was too close to other diners. No, this table was in the sun. No, this table was too near the aisle. So, we circled the room for several minutes before he settled upon a small marble table by the window in the front bar area that had not yet been set up.

He asked me where I used to live. When I said Oakland, he began talking about one of his favorite authors, Jack London. He narrated the plot of one story, To Build a Fire, which he said he always wanted to film. The tale is about a Yukon adventurer who is caught out in the Klondike cold. His only hope for survival in the sub-freezing temperature is to build a fire, but his hands are numb with frostbite. He does manage to ignite a fire with matches and a scrap of beech bark, but only by cupping the flame with his hands until his palms begin to burn. While Klaus told this story, he, too, cupped his hands. I half expected to see the yellow tip of a flame flickering up through his fingers...






More...

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Short Cut To Nirvana




















Great new documentary: "Short Cut To Nirvana"...two film makers travelled with DV Cams to the 2001
Maha Kumbh Mela (Great Nectar Fair) at the convergence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers near Allahabad (map) in Northern India...

"
The Kumbh Mela is the biggest gathering of people in the history of humanity – although few in the West have ever heard of it. More than 70 million pilgrims attend this extraordinary spiritual festival, which has been held every 12 years near Allahabad, India, for over two millennia.

See the trailer (http://www.melafilms.com/pages/trailer_qt7.html).

A vast tent city is established to accommodate the masses, and many of India’s greatest gurus and spiritual leaders set up camp to give discourses to their devotees. On certain auspicious days everyone takes a holy dip at the confluence of two actual rivers - the Ganges and Yamuna - and a mythical river, the Saraswati. On the main bathing day, more than 25 million people bathe in the sacred waters. This single act of faith is believed to cleanse the sins of a thousand lifetimes and secure release from the endless cycle of rebirth – literally a short cut to the state of purest bliss… nirvana.

The 2001 event was considered to be particularly auspicious because it coincides with certain planetary alignments that only occur every 144 years, or once every 12 Maha Kumbh Melas."

Best thing
I've seen (including several coffee table books bought over the years) on the Kumbh...heartfelt, hands-on film, pleasant, intelligent spiritual sensibility, a suprising human touch...an eye-opener for curious Westerners...a glimpse of a culture that is, literally, on a different planet in terms of its approach to spiritual evolution.

Entire movie made in DV CAM format...blown up for projection. A perfectly good looking theatrical feature (albiet a bit shakey b/c the filmmakers opted not to use tripods or monopods or anything to stabilize the image...which is critical for viewability on a large screen) made with a highly portable, inexpensive (<$3,500) camera for which the media (tapes) cost $10 for 60 minutes. These cameras are to cinema what Henri Carteir Bresson's Leica was to photography... artists are totally liberated from cumbersome, heavy, expensive formats tools...they can go anywhere and capture anything (even completely alone)...focusing on the "meaning & beauty" as opposed to money, logistics, and technicalities...
result: high impact movies made with a "decisive moment" modus.

Nice footage of the Dalai Lama speaking to seekers amidst the throngs... expressing childish delight over learning how to use a handheld ceremonial drum...

The filmmakers website, watch trailers, see photography, learn more about the Mela...